When we moved into our house last summer, one of our first goals was to do a kitchen / diner knock through. The kitchen was a good size (about 16ft by 8ft), but had just one small window at one end of the room. This meant that it was always pretty dark in there, and not somewhere we particularly wanted to hang out. We like to barbecue, but to get outside you have to walk through the utility room and right along the back of the house to the patio area.
The dining room by contrast, is a lovely light bright room. It has a big bay window, so gets light through most of the day. If we put patio doors into the middle of the bay, that would give us the perfect exit out directly on to the patio. Joining the kitchen and dining room is a dingy bit of hallway. If we lost the walls between the dining room, kitchen and hallway, we would have a lovely bright open space.
Where to start?
When you see all those fabulous kitchen diner knock-throughs and transformations on Instagram, nobody ever talks about the whole process right from the beginning. Perhaps by the time you get to the end, you are so happy you forget all the boring stuff that went before? I hope so, anyway! If you are like me though and literally have never done anything like this, the boring stuff at the beginning is kind of important.
To start with, as we roughly knew what we wanted, I rang up a couple of builders and asked them to come and have a look. Several builders duly turned up, only for them all to ask ‘do you have a kitchen plan?’ and ‘have you had some structural calculations done?’ because the wall between the kitchen and dining room is apparently structural. I realise now, that without these things, I was probably asking the builders to stick a finger in the air and guess a price. However I did say to them I just wanted ball park figures at this stage. So f
From the 4 builders I rang up, 3 actually turned up and I got one (guess)timate back. I realised we needed some plans.
Initially we hesitated about getting a kitchen plan done. I didn’t want to get all excited about choosing a swish new kitchen, only to discover I couldn’t afford it if the building work cost much more than we thought!
I realised we needed a basic plan and we could always change it and re-work the details later. So off we went to one of the large ‘kitchen warehouse’ companies you can find on many a retail park around the land. They sent out somebody to measure up and then we went in for our appointment. They had a huge amount of choice in the showroom, and also a Virtual Reality room where you could see your kitchen ‘made real’. This was great and really helpful for helping us to decide what we wanted. What wasn’t so great though was they wouldn’t give you the kitchen plan unless you paid a deposit up front. Whilst the price wasn’t outrageous, we just didn’t want to commit to anything at this stage.
Fortunately for us, my father-in-law has an account at Howden’s, the trade only kitchen supplier. They also offer a kitchen design service, and happily supply the plans up front. So that part was nailed.
The other missing piece was the Structural Engineer’s calculations. As the wall we wanted to remove is structural, it would have to be replaced with an RSJ. Before visiting, the Structural Engineer asked us to make a couple of holes in the ceiling, so that he could see the joists. We duly did this, but then when he arrived he said we needed to make some more. So we now had several large holes in our dining room, kitchen and hallway ceilings. No going back from here!
It turns out that removing the wall is probably more complicated than we thought it would be. Unfortunately the kitchen / dining room wall doesn’t run across between the 2 rooms in a completely straight line. Instead the supporting wall has a ‘dog leg’ in it. This makes putting in a supporting beam a bit more challenging. However, we now had comprehensive plans for this.
Finding a Builder
Next task, was to find a builder. As only 1 of the builders had previously come back to me, I was a bit reluctant to go back to them. I didn’t think I should be having to chase them just for an estimate!
Having scoured personal recommendations, Checkatrade and various other review websites, I approached a few builders. Again, from the 3 builders approached, I had 1 estimate. Is it always this hard?!
After several months of frustration and inaction, we were on the verge of just getting the holes in the ceiling plastered up and saying no more about it! But then I had a bit of a brainwave, which enabled us to move forwards again.
A Change of Direction
When the structural engineer drew up the original plans for the steel beam, he mentioned that the wall at the back of the kitchen, between the kitchen and study, was a stud wall. This got me thinking…We could do a kitchen diner knock through in a different way! If we knocked the wall down into the study, we could create a room that had light coming in from the front and back of the house. In addition, there is a room adjacent to the kitchen and the study that is pretty small and narrow, and not really much good for anything. If we could knock the whole lot through though, it would be a huge, light filled space. In addition, there is scope, in the ‘nothingy’ room, to put in a bifold door that would open into the side-garden of the house. So the floorplan would go from looking like this:
After a bit of discussion and thought, Mr G started to come round to my way of thinking. So we called the Structural Engineer again and got him to come and take another look and confirm that the walls were indeed stud and easily removable. Once it was all signed off, we ordered a skip and the kitchen diner knock though was a go!
Lots of people might be a bit scared to do this, but Mr G is no stranger to knocking walls down; his dad loves a bit of extreme DIY so he has been doing this kind of thing his whole life!
Putting it back together again
Once finished, (it is difficult to get it all in one picture), the space looked like this:
So the next phase, was putting it all back together again. The pillar in the room is staying, so the first thing we did was pull our dining table in to check it fits. Thankfully it fits really well! So now it was on to sorting out the electrics and plastering, and getting quotes for the bifold door. We also needed to plan our kitchen lighting and the layout for our new kitchen!